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High School

College planning by the Grade

It is time to spring into action, regardless of the weather! We are offering you a college planning guide by grade. Are you ready to gain new financial knowledge that will come in handy when you send your child off on his/her upcoming college journey?We are experts in the field of college planning and can make the process flow smoothly for you. Because each family is different and you may have several children in different stages in school, we’ve divided the newsletter into sections organized by grade to help you go directly to the year your student is in.


If your student is in the 9th grade, you might think it’s too soon to start planning ahead for college. Not so. It’s never too early to start. During this first year of high school, stress the importance of working diligently on academics. This will always pay off throughout his/her educational pursuits. Also, one thing to remember is that this is the year that grades will begin to be recorded on transcripts. Your student can start to stretch his or herself by taking classes that are challenging but still within his/her abilities. This is the best time to lay the foundation for a solid academic future.

Take interest and skills assessments
Your student is a freshman and may not yet know what s/he wants to do as a career. S/he may still not be sure once college starts. One way to find out where your student’s abilities are strongest is to take interest and skills assessments that help to match careers with the abilities that are best presented through the assessments. Some people are intimidated by the whole process of preparing a child to go to college. Don’t be discouraged, we are available and ready to address and guide you through the process of finding the answers to your concerns.

It never hurts to have those strong study skills honed early. Your student’s academics have an impact on the schools that s/he will want to attend. Doing well in school is important throughout every stage of academic development.

Have parent/student conferences to discuss college plans
College planning does not have to be the sole responsibility of the parent. In fact, having your student involved in all the stages of planning may increase the chances of success when s/he is finally reached college. Brainstorm and discuss ways to save and pay for college together as a family.

Expand Your Support Network
Midwest College Planning is here to help and support ALL your needs in terms of financial aid and college admission planning. However, you can also find friends, teachers and school counselors who have been through the process themselves and can offer advice and first-hand knowledge of the experience. (Just remember that everyone’s individual situation is quite different.)

It’s never too early to get your financial plan together
Protect the money you’ve saved. If you have money saved outside of your company retirement plans, talk to your College Funding Advisor about possibly repositioning those assets into accounts that are not exposed to the aid formulas.


If it’s 10th grade for your student, continue on the solid path started in freshman year. Or, if your student encountered setbacks during freshman year or if s/he had a difficult time adjusting in high school, reassure your student that this is a new year. Your student can always move forward regardless of any setbacks. Here are some additional things to consider for your high school sophomore.

Have your student participate in extracurricular activities and resume brainstorming
Getting involved in sports, academic clubs or the arts is a great way for your student to have a well-rounded academic background. Not only is it fun to meet others, it may also develop an interest that is there already. Have them also write down all involvement for a later resume to colleges.

Have your student explore internships and apprenticeships
Internships and apprenticeships are very valuable. It gives your student a first-hand look at possible career options and hands on job experience. It also provides an opportunity for a real connection with a mentor that could later help in the recommendation process with colleges.

Have your student enroll in a summer enrichment program
These programs are developed to give students exposure to a variety of fields. Developed by specialists, children can enroll in several different courses during their session to provide an overview of career and interest areas.


It’s 11th grade for your student. What a terrific time this is! S/he has already completed 2 years of high school and if there have been weak areas that need to be strengthened; this is the time to have it corrected. You’ll notice the momentum picking up here. Things will get busier so stay on top of all of the activities. Here are some other items to add to your list, as well.

Consider having your student earn college credit
One way to make things easier for your student while in college is to complete some classes while still in high school. These courses can be taken through Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate, Post-Secondary Enrollment Options and College in the Schools programs.

Have your student narrow down possible career options
If your student has shown interest in several areas, have him/her narrow down the fields and investigate the type of education that is needed.

Start Researching the Schools Websites
If your student has already narrowed down his/her school list, this is a good time to really dig in and equest admissions forms. You can’t start too early on this paperwork and most people put it off until the very end. Don’t be one of them!

Have your student take the ACT and/or SAT
It’s still not too late to register for the ACT and/or SAT. They are still offering exams until June. Register now, if you want your student to take these exams.

Get your financial game plan in place!
Guard the money you’ve worked so hard to put away. You want to protect what you’ve saved for your student.  We can also help you develop a plan on how you are going to pay your out-of-pocket college costs in the most efficient way.


It’s 12th grade and your student is almost done! S/he has been through the rigors of 3 years of high school and is now near completing the final year. What an accomplishment! This year has probably been very busy thus far. Here are a few things to think of as your student finishes this last year.

Update your resume
Now is the time to fine-tune your resume. This will come in handy now for colleges and later for a job search. Go over work history, activities; in and out of school, leadership, service and any other awards or recognitions they have received. Jot them down in a resume format that looks crisp and clean. We can help you with how to present yourself through your resume!

Have your student look for summer employment
Having your student find work in the summer time is one of many ways for him/her to learn to value of work and earning their own money. These skills will be useful in many areas of his/her life and can be valuable in college, as well. Your student can use the money earned to save for his/her college expenses, too.

Stay focused!
Most students are so ready to just be done with high school at this time. Make sure you check in with your student to ensure they are still doing well in his/her classes.

College planning for your student can be a daunting task. Navigating the many responsibilities required in this process may make you feel like you need your own personal assistant. That’s why we are here. We can be the guide to assist you in creating, developing and implementing your own unique college plan.

Best wishes, and until next month, have a joyous start to spring!

Benefit of staying motivated for college while in high school

  • Our Blog

“Top Tips For Remaining‘College-Motivated’

During TheHigh School Years

Even highly gifted and talented students can sometimes be tempted to “drift” a bit during the school year – in fact, intelligent kids are sometimes even more at risk because they may lack academic stimulation and challenges in some cases.  For this reason, it is important for parents and students to have an eye on the best ways to remain focused on the goals at hand, even if/when others may tend to fall by the wayside, either temporarily or (unfortunately) permanently.  There will almost always be ebbs and flows during a school year for a variety of reasons, but the students who are able to keep themselves on target with the most consistency during their high school experience are usually those who end up in the best situations when they graduate and move on to the next level.

Fortunately there are a number of excellent strategies that can help students to remain focused on their college goals throughout the year, and discovering which ones are the most effective for the college bound youngster(s) in your family can pay great dividends over the course of the high school experience.

For this month’s newsletter, we are dedicating these pages to some of the top tips for keeping a student’s eye on the college ball during their preparatory years.  If you have any specific questions about them, or would like some more personalized suggestions, please do feel free to give us a call.  As college funding professionals – and as the college application experts – we are uniquely prepared to provide details, planning, and important information that can positively affect your family’s college preparation efforts.

Tip 1) Focus On Specifics

The “specifics” are going to be different for every person depending on who they are, and where they are in school. Everyone has a set of both strengths and weaknesses. For example, one student may have difficulty staying on top of notes or materials from a certain class. One way to combat that would be to use specific actions to stay motivated on certain tasks and goals. In this case, it could be to put all the notes and materials in one place immediately after class. This would fix the problem of lost notes and materials.

Another example could be related to homework. Procrastination is virtually universal. However, if specifics are attached to certain goals then this can help to keep the student focused and motivated. One specific goal could be to finish homework prior to doing any other social activity. This takes discipline, but it is specific and can help to build motivation and confidence if followed through regularly.

Tip 2) Stay Positive

So much of life has to do with attitude. If teachers and classmates are getting a student down, there is almost always something that can be done to improve a situation.  Charles R. Swindoll once said that “Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.” This is true in high school and throughout life. There may be classes with less-than-stellar teachers. Maybe an illness presents itself while in school. How one reacts to these challenges can determine the ultimate trajectory of one’s success.

High school, like life in general, is not always easy.  However, keeping a positive attitude or looking for the positives within a negative situation can help one to not get mired in all of the negativity that can sap focus and motivation.

Tip 3) Prioritize, Prioritize, Prioritize!

It is usually pretty easy to see when there are several tasks that lie ahead, but the inclination for most people is to do the easiest thing first. However, if one prioritizes, the easiest task might (or might not) be the one that needs to be done last – or in the middle – or even not at all.

It’s important to look at the long-term goal and break down tasks and priorities accordingly. Classes that are easier may not need immediate attention, for example.  By the same token, more challenging classes may need to be prioritized first in order to stay on course and achieve the level of academic success desired. Take time for the classes that need the attention and focus efforts accordingly.

Tip 4) Swallow Pride – Ask For Help When Needed

It is not always easy to admit that one needs help. It is crucial, however, to ask for help promptly before things unravel and one gets too far behind. If there are certain areas that need attention, there is nothing wrong with requesting extra assistance or support. It is a sign of maturity and strength to know when one’s limit has been reached.

Getting even a little bit of additional support may just be what’s needed in order to stay on track and motivated.

Tip 5) Set Goals

Setting goals can be incredibly rewarding and they are a great tool to use to become and stay motivated. Here’s a well-known – but often quite effective – acronym to help high school students to set goals: Goals should be SMART.  This means S – Specific, M – Measurable, A – Attainable, R – Relevant, T – Timely.

Goals should be specific. Starting off the school year with a question about what one would like to accomplish and writing down those desires is one way to get to the specifics of one’s goal(s). Goals should also be measurable. This means that they should be created and tracked in a way that allows one to see that progress is being made. Goals should be something attainable. Big, impressive goals are great, but they should always be framed within the realm of the capabilities of the student.  Goals should be relevant to the desired outcome. Setting a goal to watch 50 classic science-fiction movies may be fascinating and fun, but it will not do much to help a failing grade in math. Goals should be set that put (and help to keep) one on a trajectory towards ultimate academic success. Finally, goals should be timely. It is a good idea to have some calendars in hand when setting goals. Create timelines and expectations for when benchmarks are to be met.  Keeping these cues in mind can help with effective goal setting each semester, and throughout the high school years.

Tip 6) Take Time to Reassess

Life happens. No matter how much one strategizes and plans, things can always get in the way to throw a kink in things. That is why it is a really good idea to regularly look at goals and see which things are working, which things are not, and determine overall whether things are moving in the right direction. If not, it may be time to make an evaluation of precisely where things stand, and whether they need to be tweaked a bit in order to stay on the right path.

Remember, assessment and reassessment are not only for before and after the process – they are also tools for constant correction throughout the high school years, and one of the things that leads to ultimate success!


Use High School to Prepare for College

It can be a tough job for both parents and college-bound high school students when it comes to preparing optimally for future academic endeavors. As college funding professionals with detailed knowledge into the admissions process, we recognize that all elements of the subject can be stressful and challenging from beginning to end!  However, the challenges related to college preparation can be effectively managed with some planning and insights in advance – and there is not doubt that it increases if college details are ignored throughout the high school years.  This is why we are here to help!

We find that one of the best things that parents and high school students can do to make their eventual transition into the college years as smooth as possible is to manage their high school experience in a specific way.  Students who try to view the high school years as an actual “college-prep” period will find that there are a lot of helpful parts to their high school experience, if they are willing to take advantage of them.  By the same token, parents will also find that the high school years are their own absolute best opportunity to prepare for college financial and asset management.  Working together, the high school experience can be more than just a chance for the student to get a diploma – it can be a perfect opportunity for the entire family to be optimally prepared for the college years.

The good news is that it generally does not require a lot of extra effort to turn the normal high school experience into a terrific college preparation period.  It does require some planning, and students cannot necessarily run on auto-pilot as much… and parents need to be actively engaged in the process to make the financial end work properly.  But the challenge is definitely doable, and we are the experts in helping families to make this kind of an invaluable high school experience a reality.

For this month’s newsletter, we are dedicating these pages to help you understand why these preparations are important, and how to make them happen.  Remember, if you have any questions about these important college preparation subjects, we urge you to give us a call.  College funding and application professionals are experienced and knowledgeable in these areas and can offer tailor-made explanations, planning, and information when it comes to these important college preparation efforts.

  1. Investigate Early College Credit Options

One great way for students to get a head start on their college experience is to look for opportunities to earn college credits while still attending high school.  There can be a variety of options, and they are all worth looking into.  Some schools will offer Advanced Placement (AP) courses than can actually count for future credit at many colleges and universities.  Of course, these courses presuppose that the student has demonstrated some strong aptitude in the subject matter, and are not available to every single student who expresses interest – but if the chance is there, and the student has the interest and the academic chops to handle it, then it can be a terrific alternative to the rank and file coursework.

Another possibility for some students, depending on locality and arrangements, is the completion of individual college courses during high school.  This is sometimes on a special agreement with a local community college or public university, but it can be a great way for students to get their feet wet early on, and even get a jump on completing some of their core curriculum classes at the next level before they have ever officially matriculated as a college freshman!

These options can make sense academically, putting the student ahead of the curve and building confidence early on… but it can also make a lot of sense financially.  You see, courses that a student completes before setting foot on campus are courses that will not show up on the college tuition bill later, and on that front every little bit helps!  If a student can shave off as much as a term or semester from the eventual course of their undergraduate degree, then the amount of tuition saved can be pretty darned significant.

     2. Seek Out Academic and Extracurricular Experiences

            High school is a great time in a young person’s life, but there are many instances where students will feel pressure (whether external or internal) to follow the proverbial “path of least resistance.”  Advance Placement courses are not the only way for students to excel, and can sometimes be the wrong choice for a student due to academic interest, motivation, or other considerations.

            It is vital for students to seek out opportunities to truly discover what their interests are, what experiences inspire them the most, and to begin to develop an understanding of what they want out of life.  Of course, those answers will often not come completely during the high school years, while there will be other students who may have known since they were five years old that they wanted to become a pilot, or an architect, or a doctor. 

            The point of high school is not to pigeonhole a student into a specific academic track prematurely, but rather to offer a chance for learning and growth, as well as an opportunity to demonstrate abilities, talents, and interests.  This can only really happen if the high school experience is treated appropriately, and not viewed as sheer drudgery to be endured only until graduation springs a student onward to the thrills of university life. 

Yes, we all know that high school can be rough at times, and we all have memories of certain classes that were… well, yes, probably sheer drudgery… but we are convinced that it is important to seek out whatever intriguing and inspiring options can be found in the high school experience.  Some semesters this may be more challenging than others, due to different teachers or social pressures or family challenges, whatever the case my be, but it is well worth the effort to seek out the best things that a high school has to offer.  This includes academic offerings, clubs, sports, theater, community involvement – really, anything that interests and inspires your child to a higher level.

     3. Communicate With Counselors Regularly

            There can certainly be a benefit derived from keeping the lines of communication open with high school and college counselors.  While the individual value can depend a lot on the counselor himself or herself, there are basic college preparatory courses and requirements with which most counselors are quite well-versed.  It is important for college-bound kids to be familiar with these tidbits, even if some guidance counselors do not have a lot to offer beyond that (which is sadly sometimes the case).  Maintaining a respectful and cordial relationship with these counselors can only help later when it comes time for letters of recommendation or paperwork for college application, regardless of how much or how little a specific counselor has to offer.

            With this in mind, as College Funding and Admissions Professionals, we also view ourselves as counselors in this arena, and we know that we bring the most up-to-date and actionable information for both college-bound students and their parents.  We have access to the information about the schools that interest your child, no matter where in the country they might be located.  We are the most reliable experts in managing the college funding challenges.  We really are here to help with all aspects of the college preparation experience.

            As you know, higher education financial planning and college application services stand at the very foundation of our work as college funding professionals.  This leads us to an ultimate goal of assisting parents in seeking the very best strategies for the management of their financial circumstances, as well as the proper utilization of assets to create the best situation possible with regard to the college options for the academic future.  This entire process works best, very simply put, if the parents are well-prepared ahead of time, with a clear set of guidelines to help along the way to preparation for their student’s future college and university years… as well as the attending college and university expenses!